Sunday, 26 July 2009

A quick catch-up. Here are some photos from our week in Charmouth at the beginning of July.
HESFES photos are to follow soon.
Then I need to post up lots more of our past week's activities too (I'm trying to keep up, honest!)

Ds2 fossil hunting at Charmouth on our first day of the holiday:

It's a bit blowy, isn't it?:

Dd models a hawkmoth (very fetching):

Rock-pooling and fossil-hunting at Lyme Regis:
A sea anemone:
We found some beautiful fossils at Lyme Regis
(sadly they were in boulders the size of a large suitcase!)
We visited Lyme Regis museum, which is on the site where Mary Anning lived and sold fossils in the 1800s. [For a good book (historical fiction) on Mary Anning, try 'The Dragon in The Cliff by Sheila Cole']
Take a photo of me Mummy!

Some of our beach finds. The fossil at the bottom of the picture is - according to a very helpful man in a fossil shop in Lyme Regis - a Plagiostoma giganteum.
(Ds1 was hoping it was a trilobite)

And this is the museum example:

We did come back with a huge boulder (I could only just carry it) with some fossilized bones in it. I've named it Fred the dinosaur. I suppose it might come in handy as a doorstop.
We discover the pub life of Charmouth:
And ds2 discovers his acrobatic talent in the pub garden:
For several nights running we had a visitor outside the tent. After the the hedgehog had had his fill of Jack's leftovers we were woken up most mornings by a huge seagull finishing off the remaining crumbs and clanging the dish around the front of our tent.
That'll teach Jack not to eat his dinner!

Ancient dinosaur footprints?

The kids discover that there is sand at Lyme Regis, not just rocks and fossils:

And then they discover the money arcades...

Well that was a whistle-stop tour of the first week of our holidays. HESFES next.

Friday, 24 July 2009

'I don't really believe in School...'

Sorry...grovel. No photos or blurb about our fortnight away or HESFES yet. Seemed to be bogged down in the washing basket. Spent the whole day today doing housework and apart from the lack of male pee on the toilet seat I don't think anyone would notice a difference.

Anyway, positive article from Peter Duncan, of Blue Peter fame at

"If I’d had a better education, I guess I’d have had more inspirational teachers. As it was, I went to Hawes Down Secondary Modern in Kent and it was dull compared with my life outside.

My parents were travelling entertainers, moving around seaside resorts such as Scarborough and Blackpool in the summer before moving to Kent for the Christmas pantomime season. The house was always full of performers and acrobats, men dressed as women and circus people - then I’d go to school.

I went to so many different schools around the country but I spent three years at Hawes Down - by far the longest stretch. I was certainly aware that we were the 11-plus failures. People had their future defined by the fact that they went to a secondary modern. I remember most of the leaflets in the careers office were to do with the military. That’s where we were expected to go, I suppose.

But there was one teacher who stood out. Mr Marples taught history, although that was never really relevant to his lessons. His dynamic debates and exciting discussions shone out. He managed to bring about a mind shift in us dogged children...

...I left school at 15 for my first acting job and I was joyous to get away. I remember the headteacher announcing in assembly that I’d got a job. It was a real achievement at that school.

I’m struck with a raging jealously when I look at my four children’s education. Still today, the school system classifies people when they hit 11 years old. It says: “This is what you are, you’re not one of the clever ones,” and children believe it. It was only when I got older that I dismissed the whole idea of cleverness. It’s all a load of tosh really - there are so many other things that you can click with that aren’t as quantifiable as tests.

I’m not naive enough to say everyone can be what they want to be, but society should be more open to the idea of trying new things that aren’t necessarily academic but are perhaps more productive and fulfilling.

If I had to come down one side or the other, I’d say I don’t really believe in school. Or perhaps I just think they need to be recalibrated. I took my kids out of school to make documentaries around the world and they learnt more in those six months than they would have done in three years at school.

I like to think of myself as a free spirit and that children need to be inspired and have a reason to learn. I never really had that at school, apart from my brush with Mr Marples."

Peter Duncan is an actor, ex-‘Blue Peter’ presenter and documentary maker. He works with Creativity, Culture and Education as an ambassador for the Find Your Talent programme. He was talking to Hannah Frankel.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

The bath water is brown and gritty - we're back from HESFES!

Wow! Back from a week's camping holiday followed by HESFES (Home Educators Summer Festival) and feeling tanned and fresh-aired (and a bit nearer the overdraft limit than I was before I left!)

After attending the week-long home educating conference at HESFES I have lots to tell, and plenty of info/advice about the Badman Report to pass on. Hopefully among the scraps of paper I've brought back I have some constructive ideas about what we can do to fight the proposals.

I'm sure I've also got lots of photos to post up about fossiling and HESFESing and all our other activities over the past few weeks. But I need to tackle the washing and the allotment first, so will post soon with more stuff. In the meantime this is just to say I'm here!